Who vs. Whom

I had a couple of great English teachers in high school, one of whom was Miss Latham. Miss Alfrava Latham. She was a character.  She hand-made her clothes, wore black patent leather shoes with a square silver buckle that looked like something a Pilgrim would wear and loved to read cookbooks. She was also a tough, tough teacher.

Tough, but clear. She always had little tricks for us to remember some of the more difficult rules of grammar. One that I use to this day is one that helps me tackle the who vs. whom problem.

There’s an easy way to remember when you should use either word. Ask yourself if you could hypothetically answer your question with him. Let me give you an example:

Who/Whom should we invite to the study group? Since you could hypothetically answer the question with, “We should invite him,” whom would be the correct word choice.

Who/Whom is invited to the study group? The answer to this question is, “He is going to the study group,” not, “Him is going to the study group,” so the correct word choice is who.

Need an even easier way to remember which is correct? Whom and him end in m. If you can answer the question with him, you know the correct word choice is whom.

If you must know the reason this trick works, it’s because the answer you give to the above-type questions helps you determine whether the pronoun refers to an object. Him is an object pronoun. Think of yourself pointing out the person (him) as though he was an object. If you can’t do that, then who is correct.

I don’t know what’s happened with Miss Latham since my high school days, but I do know that what she taught me stuck with me.

If this post has helped you, give a little look skyward and say a quick, “Thank you,” to Miss Latham.

 

 

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